12 Incredible Cave Cities

Featured — By Rachel Greenberg on September 8, 2011 at 10:01 am

7. Matmata – Southern Tunisia

Image: Panegyrics of Granovetter/Flickr

If the interior of these buildings look  familiar it’s probably because you’ve seen one before. Remember in the beginning of the first Star Wars movie? Yep, Luke Skywalker’s Aunt and Uncles home was actually filmed in a troglodyte house in Matmata, Tunisia. Troglodyte complexes have been built by the Berbers that live in this region for centuries, possibly even since Egyptian times. They are created by digging a large central pit, and then creating artificial underground caves around it.

Image: 10b travelling/Flickr

Image: Syromaniac/Flickr

Even though these homes are ancient, it wasn’t until 1967 that they were “discovered” by the outside world. After 22 days of consistent rain, the small and private community of Matmata were forced to contact authorities when many of their homes began collapsing. It was previously thought that only nomadic tribes lived in the area, and officials were shocked when they came to investigate and found the troglodyte homes.

Image: matee, but who cares?/Flickr

In response to the flooding, above ground homes were built, but as soon as the underground dwellings could be repaired the new homes were abandoned.

8. Bamyan – Central Afghanistan

Image: AfghanistanMatters/Flickr

The modern story of Bamyan is a tearjerker, so prepare yourself.

Bamyan was once an important religious center for Buddhists, and at one point 2,000 monks built their homes in caves in the sandstone cliffs above the city of Bamyan. In addition to creating magnificent paintings inside the caves, the monks also built two massive statues of Buddha between 544-644. Standing 180 and 121 feed high, these were the largest standing statues of Buddha anywhere in the entire world – modern day included. Tragically in 2001 the Taliban intentionally destroyed the statues, calling them an “affront to Islam” and blowing them up with dynamite.

Image: United Nations Photo/Flickr

Previously the Taliban also used the monks’ caves to store ammunition, but once they were driven out of the region the caves became reoccupied with locals looking for homes.  Amazingly, the new cave dwellers have found more treasures in the caves, including the world’s oldest oil paintings and a 62-foot reclining Buddha statue.

Image: Tracy Hunter

Image: Tracy Hunter

9. Kandovan – East Azerbaijan Province, Iran

Image: basheem/Flickr

When the Mongols invaded Iran in the 13th century, Iranians fled all over the country. A community ended up in northwestern Iran, and found a bizarre rock formation they decided to call home. These cone structures were created by eroded volcanic ash, and have made incredibly temperate and sturdy houses for the past 700 years.

Image: Eliza_Taibihi/Flickr

Most homes built in Kandovan are between 2 and 4 stories tall, and have actually made this very remote village a popular tourist destination within Iran.

Image: basheem/Flickr

Tags: Afghanistan, Australia, cave dwellings, caves, China, Colorado, Georgia, Iran, italy, jordan, Mali, Petra, Tunisia, Turkey


  • Christina says:

    I really loved Cappadocia. It was one of the most interesting places I’ve ever visited. Jordan and Tunisia are next on the list.

    • Kristina says:

      Tunisia and Jordan are two of the ones I have been to! I highly recommend both. Tunisia was absolutely brilliant since it’s off the beaten path for tourists.

  • Adam says:

    Nope, I have not been to any of them. I think I saw one of these on House Hunters International. I think I might need to add a few of these onto my must see list.

  • Andrea says:

    Petra is remarkabler. But I thought it has been determined the Treasury is a tomb for a family. There arte something like 700 structures. It takes days to see, and the entrance – the mile long Siq is the most dramatic gate to a city EVER.

  • Obiora Ugwuayi says:

    I love to receive mail on newly discovered places I can visit in adventure, I love adventure!


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